The response to higher gas taxes would have nothing to do with bikes. We'd buy cars with better fuel efficiency, explore alternative engines with lower costs-per-mile, and continue to pay the tax. Until the efficiency gains match the costs of the tax, the rest of the economy would suffer as most people would have less discretionary spending.
You HAVE to get to work, so you're going to eat the tax. And it's regressive, to boot.
Urban people in the U.S. complain a lot about the suburban nature of most of the country, but there is little that can be reasonably done eliminate the suburbs. Most people in this country simply prefer it, and will pay more for their transportation costs to get it. Raising taxes on these people is not going to change their behavior in any meaningful way. A few extra cents, or even an extra half dollar is gas taxes is going to be a lower cost to them than uprooting their life and moving within biking distance.
If people prefer it, why does the government have to mandate it by law?
Suburban zoning and -- even more importantly -- minimum parking requirements force property developers to build nothing but sprawl with isolated pods of single-use development. Wide, hostile roads are required (by law) to carry people between commercial, office, residential, and industrial sprawl zones.
If free markets were allowed to have any influence at all on land development, you would see at least some new urban style building. As it is, nothing but sprawl is permitted.
GP said EU levels, so it's not a few cents or "even" a half dollar. It's straight up doubling or tripling gas prices. This would no doubt impose a lot of hardship on people, and there might well be significant political upheaval in the process, but if you think it wouldn't change behavior and the suburban sprawl problem then you don't realize how inelastic people's income really is.
I think you mean "how inelastic the demand for gas is in the face of higher prices".
Of course people's income is fixed in this equation. Though I suppose you might try to earn more if gas prices go up.
What you're trying to say is that demand for gasoline is inelastic in the face of higher prices.
And here's a bit on gasoline...
That’s the same commute as I had during my time in high school. I did it on a bike, for 4 years, as did everyone else in my class. (I grew up in the Netherlands, where this is normal.)
> Raising gas taxes is going to cost people who have longer commutes
Which in turn will make people live closer to their work place and it will promote working from home. People might also start lobbying for more and better public transport.
The net speed of transit is driven by stop frequency and dwell time. Remember, you simply cannot make up for the time you're not moving -- driving half your trip at 15 mph and half at 30 mph doesn't give you an average speed of 22.5 mph ((15+30)/2), but of 20 mph -- it's the total time for the trip, divided by distance.
Acceleration (and braking) of LRV has to be limited on account of standees, which generally means limiting top speeds. The fact that most LRVs travel on shared roadways (with private vehicles, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians) means they have to be prepared for sudden stops. Exclusive RoW can avoid this problem, but it's expensive: you've either got to block off surface access, elevate, or tunnel.
Tracked vehicles cannot pass one another without sidings. A consistent issue with LRVs is that if there's a breakdown, or even a delay, of an up-track vehicle, the effects ripple back through the route. Sidings (or switches) are expensive. Trolley buses (which receive power from overhead electrical wires) have similar limitations.
Any transfers you need to make will also add considerable time to your trip, and again, dwell or stationary time _cannot_ be made up by speed.
In crowded or dense urban areas, priority signaling for transit, and the lack of need to find and pay for parking, can cut some time off of trips, but that's fairly limited.
I live in the Cleveland area, and even living in the downtown area, I could imagine it being a legitimate sacrifice to live without a car. While the downtown area is growing in residence and support services, such as grocery stores, are being built downtown, it's still tough. Also, while some businesses are moving their offices downtown, other companies, especially large ones like Eaton, have moved their substantial downtown presence to the suburbs, so the problem is happening in both the residential and commercial side of real-estate. I'd have to imagine many small and mid-size cities suffer from this.
I just don't see a solution that is going to get people to cluster more, given our culture. I think the long-term solution is electric cars and the possibilities that shared, highly convenient, self-driven cars present. So instead of changing behaviors drastically, we use technology to make the required changes much smaller.
You already feel a mild version of this in rush-hour on NYC subways. Your body will move slightly as the train breaks, often causing people to lose balance (particularly if they never experienced this previously)